Lost in A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes


I didn’t know what I was delving into when I picked up A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi. Just looking at the cover with bullets in the foreground and two shadowy figures in the back, I knew that it was going to be a heavy, deep book. I was right.

The story begins with the main character, Tareq, having a nightmare of being in smoke and dust with a building crushing his body, his lungs, and his voice. He dreams of smoke clouding his mind as well as his lungs. This nightmare comes because he is in Syria, a country caught in the midst of war.

Tareq has a little brother, Salim, twin baby brothers, Ameer and Sameer, as well as two younger sisters, Farrah and Susan. His father, whom he calls Babba, works at a store that provides for the family. His mother and grandmother are the two female role models in his life. The characters are formed with beautiful detail that transcends the page; I knew that without a doubt in my mind the story would stick with me.

Tareq is described as a beautiful boy who is a little socially awkward and is outshined by Salim. His life is changed in a second, and he wakes in darkness.I felt as if I was the one who was losing my family. The anxiety of being left alone, of having every single person you knew and loved, lifted out of dust that was formerly their body hurts

In a moment of tragic beauty, he grabs his mother’s hand and weeps as he vows to protect his family. Tareq is painfully thrown into a cage without bars; he’s trapped in his mind where he sees his family dying over and over again. He is one of the many broken boys the war made. He clings to hope of his younger brothers being alive. That hope soon dies when he finds the corpses of his six-month-old brothers.

In the news, there’s nothing about Syria or the things that they are going through, so it was a foreign thing for me to read. Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot about history, but this was new. It was real; Tareq could easily be an immigrant boy somewhere in the world. It really touches me when I read realistic fiction which is why I think that it’s my favourite genre.  

It is at this point of the book that I wanted more. I wanted to understand the Islamic religion and more of what caused the war. I wanted to understand how beautiful buildings were replaced with hovels. I longed for more struggle to survive. It wasn’t a horrible book, but I just longed for more. The book wasn’t over, but the rest just felt as if it was vapid.

Tareq speaks about growing beards and worshipping Allah, but none of that is shown. There’s plenty of grotesque imagery of beheadings, but that’s it. It’s not enough sustenance. For that reason, I give A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi three out of five stars.